Monday, November 3, 2014

Sinclair and Bachelder

Upton Sinclair’s novels are a classical example of melodrama. They tell the same basic story again and again, acting as a manifesto of sorts. They present the reality that Sinclair wants his audience to acknowledge: the evil (most often capitalists) exploiting the common people or the workers. His novels can be related in a way to the Communist Manifesto, though instead of supporting communism, Sinclair advocates for socialism in the United States. Sinclair’s novels, such as The Jungle, are particularly melodramatic in their style. As novels, they are able to manipulate their audience with a specific, detailed, and most importantly emotional, yet fictional account. People enjoy reading fiction because it is easy to sympathize with the characters. It is easy to understand their struggles and relate to their pain. This makes fiction and melodrama closely related. Sinclair’s stories make the audience sympathize with the working class, which is exactly how they will decide to support a cause.

Bachelder’s novel uses Sinclair as a character who is constantly resurrected and then assassinated. When people need his help or expertise, they resurrect him. However, there is a large group of people who oppose socialism and hate Sinclair, and several different people have assassinated him throughout the years. Bachelder presents a continuing (arguably hopeless) struggle to bring socialism to the US, with Sinclair as its leader. Part two of the novel gives what I think is the most obvious relationship between Sinclair and Bachelder. Up to this point, Bachelder has largely been making fun of Sinclair, criticizing his writing and presenting him as insignificant in today’s society. However, part two of the novel tells a more personal story that gives the audience a better view of his character. In this story, Sinclair is tricked into selling five hundred copies of his new novel to a book burning. He wants to attend the book burning, thinking it is a celebration in his honor, and of course several people are preparing to assassinate him when he arrives. However, the young boy who arranges the book burning has a complete change of heart after reading the novel. He becomes Sinclair’s ideal audience: someone who recognizes the injustice in the world and wants to change it. Though Sinclair’s books are burned, he escapes the ordeal unharmed. This longer story amidst the parody of Sinclair presents him as someone who does still serve a purpose. The desire for justice will never become unrelatable. Though it may change its purpose, justice will always need those people who are unafraid to demand change.

Bachelder uses melodrama in his novel in some of the same ways that Sinclair does. He portrays a good and evil (Socialists vs. anti-Socialists, Sinclair vs. his assassins), and the novel is a sort of continuing struggle for Sinclair, though not always in a strictly linear fashion. However, Bachelder also structures his novel as a parody, which makes it melodramatic in a different way. It not only offers the added humor that makes the reader want to continue reading, but it also intensifies the melodrama already present. It makes the good more good, and the evil more evil, while still allowing the reader to judge the characters on their own. It becomes a more evolved type of melodrama, a suggestion to the audience instead of a demand.

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